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In GOP Primary, Va. Voters See Limited Influence

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Virginia residents head out to vote in the presidential primary today, although they'll only be choosing between two of the four candidates still in the running.
Michael Pope
Virginia residents head out to vote in the presidential primary today, although they'll only be choosing between two of the four candidates still in the running.

Voters are headed to the polls in Virginia today for Super Tuesday, but many voters feel the lack of candidates has given the state a diminished influence.

Fairfax County voter Ricardo Piereck plans to vote in Virginia's presidential primary, but he's not happy about it. All the major candidates are not on the ballot this year, thanks to the commonwealth's onerous ballot access rules. Like many voters across the commonwealth, Piereck says that means Virginia will have a diminished influence this Super Tuesday.

"I think it sets the Republican Party in a bad way, because Virginia is going to be important when it comes to the general election," Piereck says. "And I think they are going to lose voters in a crucial swing state for the general election."

Chesterfield County voter Adam O'Neil disagrees. Although he wanted to vote for Newt Gingrich, he's instead planning to vote for Ron Paul, and he believes Virginia could end up playing a very important role among the Super Tuesday states.

"I think it will actually be pretty big in the national spotlight because if Romney loses to Ron Paul then that's going to look absolutely terrible for him," O'Neil says. 

But the history of the state's politics indicates it might not have had all that much influence even if all the major candidates were on the ballot, according to Stephen Farnsworth, who teaches political science at the University of Mary Washington in Fredricksburg, Va.

"Virginia Republican nomination politics pretty consistently moves in the direction of the most conservative nominee," Farnsworth says. 

The most conservative candidate tends to become the nominee for governor, for example.

"As a result, if Virginia had a larger number of candidates on the ballot, it's not clear to me that Virginia would get the attention that other states are going to get in this process -- other states that are more up for grabs," Farnsworth says. 

Virginia is a hybrid state this year in terms of delegate allocation. If one of the candidates gets more than 50 percent of the vote -- which is highly likely considering only two candidates are on the ballot -- all 46 of the delegates at stake will go to that candidate.

This story was informed in part by sources in WAMU's Public Insight Network. It's a way for people to share their stories with us and for us to reach out for input on upcoming stories. Learn more about the Public Insight Network.

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